The Pittsburgh Pirates and visiting Chicago Cubs are taking the same approach toward trying to build something. Head-to-head, it’s clear which club is making it work for now.
The Pirates have won the first two games of a four-game series by a combined 19-2, getting strong games from both veterans and an influx of rookies and other inexperienced players. Another win Wednesday would give the Pirates their first four-game winning streak of the season.
The Pittsburgh rookies have been garnering a lot of the attention during the team’s three-game winning streak, namely outfielders Bligh Madris and Jack Suwinski, and shortstop Oneil Cruz.
“We just try to come out here and play hard every day, try and contribute to a win,” Madris told AT&T Sportsnet.
Madris was recalled Monday. In his first two major league games, he has helped the Pirates win by going 4-for-8 with three RBIs, including his first homer Tuesday, and a couple of sliding catches in the outfield.
“That’s all we can do — play hard, try to win every single night, try to put good at-bats together.”
The Cubs are employing a similar formula, but without satisfactory results to this point. Chicago has dropped three in a row and 13 of 15.
In Tuesday’s 7-1 loss, Chicago’s Matt Swarmer gave up five runs in four innings in his fifth career start.
The Cubs have two more games this series against a fellow National League Central team with a similar record to try to right the ship some.
On Wednesday, Chicago right-hander Keegan Thompson (6-2, 3.27 ERA) is expected to face Pittsburgh right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who has yet to pitch for the Pirates this season.
Eickhoff, who was a non-roster invitee to spring training, is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his season and Pirates debut.
He will be filling in for Zach Thompson, who was projected to start Wednesday before he went on the IL on Monday because of a neck issue.
Eickhoff, who has made 80 big-league starts with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, is 4-3 with a 4.84 ERA at Triple-A, with 47 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings.
Thompson has seven no-decisions, including Friday when he pitched six-plus scoreless, two-hit innings against the Atlanta Braves, a 1-0 Cubs win that snapped a 10-game losing streak.
It was, without much argument, the best outing among Thompson’s 13 career starts. He set career bests in innings and strikeouts with nine.
“I think everybody can take a deep sigh of relief,” Thompson said.
Cubs manager David Ross said Thompson showed some impressive decisions during the game.
“My core belief — and I’m probably not the norm in the new age — is you pitch with your fastball, especially the starter,” Ross said. “And he did that. That was what you do. Nobody took good swings. He didn’t run to off-speed (pitches). They were tardy on a lot of swings. It was an impressive start.”
The game against the Braves was a bounce-back outing after Thompson lasted just a combined 3 2/3 innings and gave up eight hits over his previous two starts.
Thompson will be making his third career start, sixth appearance, against Pittsburgh. He is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA in those games.
–Field Level Media